BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Nearly 300,000 kids in high poverty schools are eligible for free and reduced price breakfast, but only half participate.
Advocates are urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would require schools in high poverty areas to serve breakfast after the bell to all students. It’s a move they believe could reduce food insecurity and improve academic performance.
One in seven kids in Massachusetts lives in a food-insecure household, but according to Elizabeth Wills-O’Gilvie, chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council, the number of children going hungry is likely far greater in some communities.
“In Springfield, Holyoke, places like Lawrence and Lowell, it’s closer to one in three,” Wills-O’Gilvie said. “So look to your left and look to your right, and understand that you’re probably sitting next to someone who may have experienced food insecurity.”
The Massachusetts Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held a lobby day at the State House Monday, calling on lawmakers to pass the “Breakfast After the Bell” bill. It would require schools in high-poverty districts to provide all students with free breakfast at the start of the school day.
All Springfield public schools offer students breakfast in the classroom. Springfield State Rep. Bud Williams has seen the program improve attendence, lessen behavioral issues, and help close the achievement gap.
Williams told 22News, “Certainly when you are hungry, your concentration is not on academics, it’s on food.”
The breakfast after the bell bill received a favorable report from committee, but has not yet come up before the full legislature for a vote.